LONG POND — The ninth starting spot hasn’t produced a winner in 71 previous races at Pocono and wouldn’t again Sunday in the GoBowling.com 400.
Denny Hamlin smacked the turn three wall on Lap 14, causing extensive damage to his No. 11 Toyota. The ninth starting spot is the only position in the top 10 where a driver hasn’t won here.
“Our car was a handful,” Hamlin said. “We were trying to fight through it until the competition caution, but I was getting run over from behind and just holding up traffic.”
Hamlin, a four-time winner at Pocono, finished 43rd. It was his worst finish at the track in 16 races and continued his season of bad luck where he will fail to make the Chase for the first time in his eight-year career.
“We’ve been qualifying OK, but as soon as we get in traffic and the race starts we go dead backwards and loose,” Hamlin said. “So we’ve been fighting that a lot. Just a very frustrating season.”
TOO EARLY: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got the worse of a three-car accident on Lap 1 as the rear of his No. 17 Ford was torn up extensively. He returned to the track, completed 113 laps and finished 34th.
“I was just thinking to myself on that pace lap that before we went green I was kind of hoping everyone would stay in line since we haven’t had much track time this weekend,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “It didn’t play out like that, though.”
Stenhouse Jr. placed blame on the accident on Juan Pablo Montoya, who ran into the rear of his Ford.
REMEMBERING A FRIEND: Kasey Kahne mentioned the late Jason Leffler shortly after his victory Sunday. Leffler raced here in June and was killed three days later in a sprint car crash at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey.
“I thought about him on my way up here on Friday,” Kahne said. “The last time I was here, he flew with me here and then flew back with me. It was just me and him, and we spent a bunch of time together. Then that happened that Wednesday, so it was tough.”
LIKE JUNE: Kyle Busch had a race similar to the June event, where he finished sixth. He placed eighth Sunday and was good, but just not good enough to challenge for a victory.
“We were just a little bit off today,” Busch said. “It seemed like we could get going good on restarts and it would drive well for a few laps, then we couldn’t keep up as well on the long run.”
TIED FOR SECOND: Sunday’s race was the 54th time Mark Martin has raced at Pocono, tying him with Terry Labonte for the second-most starts at the track. Retired Ricky Rudd tops the list with 55 races.
Martin finished 18th and for the first time in his career finished out of the top 10 at Pocono for three consecutive races. He was 19th in June and placed 12th last August.
“I had a pretty decent racecar and had some brake issues,” Martin said. “We made big gains from last week and from Friday.”
Martin has raced only three times in the last seven races since the Pocono race in June, but the 54-year-old left with a good feeling.
“I think we’re headed in a nice, positive direction and hopefully we can keep that going,” Martin added.